Thursday, October 25, 2007
Venue: Cathouse, Glasgow, 19th October 2007
I suppose the Warrior Soul gig I found out about at the last minute earlier in the year, and missed, must have been cancelled? Either that, or after a long time away the band are doing some heavy touring, re-establishing the name in preparation for next year's new album, the first in, what, 12 years?
I guess it was 1990, though time gets away from me sometimes, when I heard Charlie’s Out Of Prison, one of the highlights of this set. The only thing I had heard from the band Warrior Soul before they supported Metallica. Their support slot was crazy, while Metallica was busier/calmer. After that I picked up their debut album Last Decade, Dead Century and then the next album Drugs God And The New Republic. The next tour was in support of the third album Salutations From The Ghetto Nation, where they headlined at the Cathouse, the old one, not the one they played this time. With Chill Pill they moved up to the Garage, though with the release of Space Age Playboys they were back to a support slot.
Warrior Soul were a band, the same solid 4 members, though the image and sound was dominated by Kory Clarke. His voice and lyrics informed the sex, drugs and punk'n'roll attitude of the band, leering swagger and beligerance mixing with a drugged out desire for peace and leave. Over the years there were various members, but those that were key to making the band who they were, were guitarist John Ricco, bassist Pete McLanahan, and drummer Mark Evans (who apparently was murdered in 2005). Ricco gave the band a spike, but McLanahan and Evans gave the band a solid and distinctive rhythm section, which helped separate them from the crowd. However, as the band changed line up, and released Space Age Playboys, something had changed, they shifted from being quite so punk to being just a little too hippie. It was to be their last album before they split up.
Last year saw the release of new editions of the earliest albums, 10 years since the 1996 release of a best of album, which I hadn't known about till recently. Which was the impetus for the recreation of Warrior Soul - though the band is entirely new, Kory Clarke returns older, but still with that edge of strange hippie punk. After the perfunctory, forgettable local support bands have done, 3 strangers take to the stage, and start playing familiar music. Into this Clarke erupts, playing an audience pleasing selection of early material. Charlie’s Out Of Prison, Punk And Belligerent, The Losers, Rocket 88 and so on. So much classic material, with only the material from Space Age Playboys being less than familiar. Though through the set there was only one new track, a piece from a new album which is due out next year - a piece which sounded more in the vein of SAP or some of the other bands Clarke has dabbled with since the mid-90s. Which is to say, it didn't sound promising.
After a particularly widdly, distorted version of a classic track, the band passed a point where they lost it a little. Where the tracks took that bit longer to recognise, and the results just weren't as satisfying. But the first half of the set, where the band were tight, and the tracks air punching, bristling agit punk rock classics, it was a real pleasure to see Warrior Soul were alive and kicking.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Band: Alexander's Attic
Venue: The Arches, Glasgow, 8th October 2007
When at The Arches for Murcof on the Sunday night, I decided to get a ticket for Outre. A piece which was described as "end of the pier freak show", and playing as part of Aurora Nova season, which sounded like a mix of dance, theatre and whatever. When I bought the ticket I was given one for an after show gig by Alexander's Attic. I had no idea who they were, but figured I could always give them a go since they were free.
Monday, I got home from work, had dinner, fell asleep. Woke up 15 minutes after I had planned to leave. Ran out of house, sped into town, screamed into first close parking space, ran round. Made it for 5 minutes before doors for Outre should open, knowing that theatre opening times can be tighter than gig times. Only to find a poster saying that there was a change to plans, and that Alexander's Attic would go on first, with Outre on afterwards. Annoying, even if I had been close to giving myself a heart attack. And at least I had a ticket for both halves, many people ending up sitting around for another hour.
If I had to guess, I might have suggested Alexander's Attic sounded like some random local indie rock band. Instead I find two girls doing some form of musique concrete. A blonde pianist in a red dress and jeans, playing melodies and abuse. A brunette in an apparently randomly coloured top, behind a wall of gear and laptops, apparently processing the live sound and adding to it. That kind of improv, experimental, cut up sound, which I have versions of enough times before. Though it still comes across reasonably well, doesn't push the limit too much, and feels reasonably engaging, even through the long time it takes to set up tracks thanks to the short notice switch around.
Outre is further delayed, technical difficulties cited. At last we are led to one of the regular gig arches, with seating set up, and a performance space cordoned off. A screen is set up across the space, with details projected on to it, with performers working behind that, and additional detail projected behind there. Figures lurk in the dark, an abstract (and pointless?) introduction to the cast. From there we are given a "rollercoaster" performance, all cranked up (too loud) music and voiceover (words distorting into meaninglessness), and weird. The compere is a sinister caricature projected onto the screen and providing warnings of how dark and sinister each act is going to be. We are led through siamese twins, headless figures, clockwork ladies, and a brutally disfigured dancer.
Outre is dark and atmospheric, and far too over reliant on its effects. So that the performances seem to be lacklustre as the dancers work around the spectacle as much as they are allowed. With recent performances at the Tramway including Kindertotenlieder, Helter Skelter and Mysteries of Love, Outre just doesn't cut it. Each of those other performances overlapping in some ways, and surpassing at each step.
So while Alexander's Attic turned out to be a pleasant surprise, there was something disappointing about the bells and whistle of Outre and its lack of substance.
Support: Impossible Flowers
Publisher: The Arches, Glasgow, 7th October 2007
Its while picking up tickets for other gigs in mid-September that I discover that Murcof is playing at the start of October. The Mexican musician has three albums on the Leaf label, I had picked up his most recent CD - Cosmos - at the start of September. His first album is the most memorable, the one that makes the impression, the other two being works I should spend more time with.
Having bought a ticket, I was advised that entrance was through the back door to The Arches. At Coco Rosie and Yann Tiersen I had gone in the front door only to be told it was the back, so knowing in advance was handy. Except of course, when I turned up at the back door there was no sign of anyone and the door certainly was not open. After hanging out with the homeless and drunks who hang around in that back alley for 15 minutes, I gave up and went to front door. Which of course was the entrance being used that night.
The Arches have a wide selection of performance spaces, this even was in the Play Room, a cosy seated theatre. When I went in a band were on stage, and there were a scattering of people on the seats. However, it was only a sound check, the band disappeared, as did most of the people. While the few of us left looked around and wondered what was going on.
Before too long, that band were back on stage. I saw their name on the poster, but forgot it, and they didn't introduce themselves. A four piece rock/electronica outfit - bass, drum, laptop and electronics - with some flexibility to who did what. The sound was pretty laid back, a kind of indie electronic thing. Much better than the band who supported Deerhoof who played in a similar kind of ballpark.
The second support band did introduce themselves - The Impossible Flowers - a three piece, improvisational outfit. Drums, violins and electronics, with a dose of accordion at points. The sound was sprawling, free form, but tight unlike the more annoying advocates of the improv scene. At times free rock drone style, verging into rhythmic almost techno, a sound that wove between reminding of Not Breathing to perhaps someone like Coil. At times they hit moments of discord, the improvised transitions clashing - but for the most part they hit a solid groove, which suggested that they had at least rehearsed the general form of the set.
Murcof had a long table set up at the back of the stage, the most minimal performance following his two support acts. One man, a laptop, and a series of knobs and boxes. For all that, it was undeniable that his performance was the highlight of the night. His recorded sound coming to life in a vivid manner live. The layers and depth of the sound clear, the textures, the differentiation crisp and striking. Moments of wonder with the strings and drones, the clicks and cuts, sweeping across the audience so that as he finishes and shuts down the laptop there is a moment of silence. The applause is enthusiastic, shouts for more, Murcof surprised has to switch things back on again, and the audience waits patiently through a reboot.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Music: Scottish Pipes & African Drums
Friday, October 12, 2007
Presented: Jo Strømgren Kompani/Aurora Nova
Venue: The Arches, Glasgow, 11th October 2007
Three nuns live in a remote convent in Norway. They live a devout and frugal life - praying, meditating, and singing. But the daily grind has become too much, the daily rituals, the sheer isolation of the convent. So that little acts become informed by spite, petty little jokes played on each other, false miracles performed to gain advantage. Ganging up on each other, a turn at a time, with an increasing malevolence, until finally one of them is broken, and then things get really nasty.
The fact the The Convent is performed entirely in Norwegian is a little strange for a non-Norwegian audience. Other foreign language plays I have seen have come with subtitles or a translation track, The Convent comes with neither. However, don't be put off by this fact, as the piece relies more on tone and manner to get its point across. The way in which one nun deals with another informs the mood of what is going on, complete with the exageration of fine physical comedy. Through the piece we have moments of song, of dance, and of lighting effects, which round out the performance, to create an eccentric and atmospheric piece.
A play about 3 nuns, in Norwegian, is probably going to be just that little bit too out there for most people I would guess. But it is quite funny, and while I was a little bemused by The Convent, I did enjoy it.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Title:Moonwalking In Chinatown
Cast: Jason Chan, Simon Edwards, Wendy Kweh, Pik-sen Lim, Ping Ping Wong, Ozzie Yue, Li Wing Hong, Lap Kung Chan, Jenny Pecheur, Julie Chueng-Inhin, Wiliam Liu, Carol Wong, Jonathan Tsang, Connie Ip, Sandy Ip, Joanne Lee, Pam Pik-Shan Lui, Angel Liu, Johnny Ong, Jonathan Tsang
Writer/Director: Justin Young/Suzanne Gorman
Venue: Soho Theatre/Chinatown, London, September 26th 2007
It is the last week of September, the time of the Autumn Moon
Festival, with strings of lanterns woven through the streets of
London's Chinatown. A group of old Chinese folk play mahjong in a
flat, surrounded by photographs, examples of the old world and the
new. After the game, walking through streets, an old pair meet a
mother and daughter, looking for a lost rabbit. The old woman talks
about the moon festival, how the young generation, the British-Chinese
generation let the old traditions slide. The old man says that she
shouldn't let that happen, even if it is short notice, they could
still have a celebration, they can still hold to the ritual
rememberance of ancestors. Calls are made, plans thrown into place,
but it isn't that easy - with one grand-daughter running away to China
to become a pop-star, while the other dates a man who is British, a
scandal when grandmother disapproved of the British-Chinese her mother
Moonwalking In Chinatown is described as being a piece of site
specific theatre. The performance starts in the top floor studio of
the Soho Theatre. There the audience is split into groups, clutching
colour coded mahjong tiles we file into the streets, following the
lantern bearer that relates to our colour. From there we are into the
streets of London's Chinatown, each group seeing different scenes,
individually, sometimes in pairs, weaving the fragments together. A
street corner where 3 teens wait for the fourth, every week they get
together and have dinner and sing karaoke - but with the fourth's
decision to leave for Beijing things are thrown into chaos. Through
the rest of the night, the friends search the streets, trying to find
their friend, trying to find her before she makes a mistake. In an
alleyway, we are stopped by a woman and her young daughter, handed a
poster for a missing rabbit. Round the corner we witness a mistake
being executed with violence, watched by the ghost of generations
The result is live and unpredictable. A man shouts at us, encouraging
us to eat at his restaurant, only to become part of the piece. Random
people in the street follow us, ask for explanations, take pictures,
look on with indifference. We walk up one street following the green
lantern, while the yellow lantern comes the other way, we exchange
furtive, knowing glances. In the end, green lantern enters the street,
yellow lantern side-by-side, a little ahead blue lantern, a little
behind red lantern. Streaming into a back courtyard, a banquet laid
out in memory of ancestors, and the drama of jealousy, of lies, of
trust, of tradition is played out to its end.